WILD OLIVE

Also Known As
ENGLISH:
American Devilwood
American Olive
Devilwood ["Devilwood is so-named because the fine-textured wood is difficult to split and hard to work." - UFL]
SYNONYM
Cartrema americana - NOTE: Some people claim that Cartrema americana is the most current name. According to the New York Botanical Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Kew Gardens, and theplantlist.org [as of Sept. 26, 2017, the last time that I checked] the current name is Osmanthus americanus. On the other hand, the respected Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants currently names this species Cartrema americana.


Order:   Lamiales
Family:   Oleaceae
Genus:    Osmanthus
Species: americanus

Florida n c

Edible Parts
Fruit Caution
Animal Interaction
Bird
Other Uses
Fragrant Hedge
This plant has very fragrant flowers, which have an absolutely lovely scent. I have seen them in the wild from Parrish northwards, as well as having been planted effectively as a "wild-looking" evergreen hedge in some native gardens. Okay friends, I need your help with this native fruiting shrub. Some sources say that the immature fruits can be brined and consumed, other sources are not sure if it is edible. Has anyone pickled these? If you have reputable web-links, university reports, expert articles, or more importantly, personal experience that backs up the claims of edibility, please drop me a note. The closely related Tea Olive's [Osmanthus fragrans] flowers are used to make a "flower jelly" in Asia. The Florida Native Plant Society's website lists the fruit as "edible," as does the 1814 publication Flora Americana Septentrionalis. Green Deane tells us that it is edible in various ways, much like the closely related Tea Olive is [see his article on it on eattheweeds.com]. I trust his research, and also want to hear from people that have eaten it. My wildcrafting friend, Mycol Stevens, suggests that it might be edible as well.  



CAUTION: I need your help with this native fruiting shrub. Some sources say that the immature fruits can be brined and consumed, other sources are not sure if it is edible, while some others say that it IS NOT edible at all. Has anyone pickled these? If you have reputable web-links, university reports, expert articles, or more importantly, personal experience that backs up the claims of edibility, please drop me a note. LET'S BE CAREFUL - DO NOT COMSUME THESE FRUITS UNTIL WE HAVE MORE INFORMATION.  Read below for more details and references that list it as being edible.
NOTE ON PHOTO: The fruits in the photo with this species profile is most likely the larger fruited SCRUB WILD OLIVE, Osmanthus floridanum, which is endemic to Florida and has a very slightly more southerly range here in Florida, south into Desoto County, where I call home. 
EDIBLE FRUITS: The Florida Native Plant Society lists the fruits, which are in the Olive family, as being edible. Useful Tropical Plants' website lists it as edible, and refers us to Sturtevant's Edible Plants [SEP] and Plants For Human Consumption [PHC] by Kunkel as the sources. [4] Green Deane writes, “If you go to an Asian market and buy “Cassia Blossom Jam” it is not from the Cassia clan at all but rather Osmanthus frangrans [fragrans], the Tea Olive, also called the Fragrant Olive and Sweet Olive. Its name gives you a good idea what it is used for.  [After flowering} fruit follows about six months later. The unripe fruit are preserved in brine like olives. The flowers are used to make tea fragrant as well as wine, liqueurs, and confections. The blossoms are either preserved in a salty brine or made into a sugary paste. The Osmanthus americana, the American Olive, is used a similar way.” [3] [NOTE: We should find another reference to confirm that the flowers are used as tea for O. americanus] along with people that have prepared and consumed the immature fruits or flowers in brine.  Daniel Austin in Florida Ethnobotany writes, “No records of indigenous people using the plants have been found. Moreover, there are few indications of other cultures using either [Florida native] Osmanthus species.” “Conflicting reports of fruit edibility exist. In his Flora Americana Septentrionalis [Flora of North America] of 1814, Frederick Pursh said the fruit was edible. George Vasey, however, in a USDA report of 1875, disagreed. He said fruits were of no value [”Hedrick, 1919]: however, they are oleaginous [Hocking, 1997]. Presumably, like the olive [Olea europaea], preparation of the drupes is necessary to make them edible. Neither Fernald et al. [1958] nor Tull [1999] mentions the species.”
—MEDICINAL BARK: Florida Ethnobotany [FEB] writes, “Bark from Osmanthus has been used as a bitter staringent, laxative, and emollient [Hocking, 1997].”
HEDGE: As an evergreen screen. [4] 
USEFUL WOOD: “Heavy, very hard, strong, durable, difficult to work.” [DEP, DOP]
WILDLIFE: “Birds and other animals will eat the fruit.” [4] 

More Details

NATIVE TO: “On the Southeastern Coastal Plain from SE Virginia [?the coast of the Carolinas] to Central Florida to SE Louisiana.” [1] Florida and parts of the southeastern US into Mexico. In Florida, in grows wild from near lake Wales, westward to near Bradenton and northward.
HABITAT: Dry woods. [1] Mesic hardwood hammocks, often along streams. [1] Coastal hammocks on barrier islands. [1] Often growing with Live Oak. [1]
DESCRIPTION: Evergreen “small tree of large shrub” [1] “Slow growing.” [1]
- HEIGHT: 10-20’, sometimes to 30’ [2] rarely to 50’ tall. [1] 
- SPREAD: 8-15’ wide. [1]
- CROWN: rounded.
- TRUNK: Single, “often branching near the ground.” [2]
- LEAVES: Opposite, elliptic, leathery, 2-6” long, blooming in early spring [1].
- FLOWERS: “Flowers unisexual or rarely bisexual.” [2] In clusters, “creamy white” [1], “sweetly fragrant” [1], “strongly fragrant” [5], small, four petals, “fused together into a tube about 1/5th” long.” [1]  “The flower buds are usually well developed and conspicuous by early winter and the flowers open at the first sign of spring and continue into March and April.” [1]
- FRUIT: A round, “almost spherical” [1], drupe [stone fruit], “dark bluish-purple when mature” [1] to 0.5.” [1]  Containing a single seed. Ripening around September.
THE "OTHER" FLORIDA OSMANTHUS SPECIES: There is one other wild and native Osmanthus here in Florida. O. floridanus, aka O. megacarpus or Cartrema floridana, the endemic Scrub Wild Olive, with larger fruits. Americanus has mature dried drupes 6 to 11 mm. wide, while floridanus has them 18-25mm. Wide. [2] “The large fruit size of Cartrema floridana is the single known morphological feature of distinction from C. americana, but the difference is striking. Unequivocal identifications are best made during fruit maturity, which is generally mid-August through October and November, but developing fruits that already exceed the size range of C. americana support a confident identification.” [2]
ANOTHER OSMANTHUS: The non-native Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is found planted in landscapes of central and northern Florida gardens. I would describe its scent as "fresh-pressed apricot juice"..... heavenly.
CULTURE: “Adaptable.” [1] It “needs no attention once established.” [1]
- HARDINESS: USDA zones: 8A-9B. [4] or cultivated in 5-9. [1]
- LIGHT: Light, dappled shade, and even in almost full shade, tofill sun. [1]
- SOIL: It “thrives in almost any soil.” [1]
- WATER: Tolerates moist soil and occasional flooding. [1] Becomes drought tolerant when established. [1] Moderately drought tolerant. [7]
- PROPAGATION: “Propagation: Seeds should be cleaned and planted outside as soon as ripe; they usually take two years to germinate. Tip cuttings from half ripe wood taken in summer can be rooted under glass.” [1] 


Flowering Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Flower Color
White

Fruiting Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Fruit Color
Black
Bearing Age
3 years

Habitat
Scrub Pine Flatwood Hardwood Forest Mesic Hardwood Hammocks
Native?
Native


Plant Form
Woody Evergreen Perennial Shrub
Height
20 feet
Width
15 feet
Rate of Growth
Slow


Hardiness Zone
5b to 9b
Ease of growth
Easy
Light
Part Sun Full Sun
Soil
Sandy
Tolerances
Drought Tolerant Flood Tolerant
Spacing
12 feet
Watering
Dry


When to Harvest
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Sources for acquiring

Wild Olive is available at some native plant nurseries across Florida. 


References

[DEP] Dictionary of Economic Plants, Uphof / Weinheim [1959] 
[DOP] Dictionary of Plants Used by Man, Usher / Constable [1974] 
[PHC] Plants for Human Consumption, Kunkel [1984] 
[SEP] Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, Dover Publications [1972] 
[3] [EAT] eattheweeds.com 
[1] [FLD] floridata.com 
[4] [FNP] fnps.org 
[7] ifas [edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st424] 
[2] Synopsis of American Cartrema, by Nesom, 2012 
[5] [WIK] Wikipedia 
[6] [AFP] Atlas of Florida Plants 
Last Updated: October 28, 2017

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Also in Oleaceae
Chionanthus virginicus